Stocks, bonds, mutual funds and more

The investment options available to IRA owners vary greatly between financial institutions. Some IRA providers allow account owners to open brokerage accounts that provide access to a vast array of different types of investments and asset classes. Others may offer only a limited investment menu of, say, 20 mutual funds or ETFs.

Common IRA investment options include:

• Mutual funds
• Exchange-traded funds (ETFs)
• Stocks
• Bonds
• Money-Market Funds
• Certificates of Deposit

For this reason, it’s important to research an IRA provider’s investment selection before opening an account to ensure it meets your investment goals.

When researching an IRA provider’s investment options, make sure to check out its fees—including any trading fees it charges and the investment fees. Mutual funds, for instance, sometimes charge a front- or back-end sales “load” that’s tacked on when buying or selling shares of the funds. The ongoing fees and expenses charged by funds can also vary widely, and some IRA providers offer funds with lower fees than others.

Also research the variety of investments offered. For instance, you may want access to international mutual funds, such as emerging market funds, or specific types of bonds through your traditional IRA. If so, make sure the provider offers those investments.

Some IRA providers also offer account owners access to non-traditional investments, such as real estate, private equity or franchises. These “self-directed” IRAs allow account owners to make investment decisions on behalf of the retirement plan. Some IRA providers specialize in offering self-directed IRAs, which carry many IRS rules about the types of investments that can be made and how those investments must be managed. But beware: self-directed IRAs are complicated, and best left to investing pros.

Compare Popular IRA Providers

Provider Fidelity Investments Merrill Edge
Name Fidelity Roth IRA Merrill Edge IRA E*Trade IRA
Description Get a range of investment choices, tax advantages and 1:1 help with a Fidelity Roth IRA Learn More Get up to $600 when you invest in a new Merrill Edge IRA. Plus one-on-one guidance, actionable insights and easy-to-use tools. Learn More Invest for retirement at E*TRADE. Learn More